Attorney General of Missouri Josh Hawley announced Monday that his Office has begun an investigation of Google's business practices in order to determine whether the Internet giant violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act as well as Missouri’s antitrust laws. Specifically, the business practices that are now being questioned by AG Hawley’s Office pertain to the company’s collection, use, and disclosure of user data, as well as the firm's alleged misappropriation of content published online by its competitors.
In addition, the investigation will target Google’s alleged manipulation of search engine results to promote its own websites while demoting competing ones. According to AG Hawley, there are strong reasons to believe that the Internet giant’s actions have not had “the best interest of Missourians in mind.” The Attorney General also stated that his Office will not sit idly and allow private user information to be “jeopardized by industry giants, especially to pad their profits.” Furthermore, while Google has access to various bits of data including user location, device information, online queries, website history and cookie data, the tech giant is also estimated to have access to information regarding roughly 70 percent of all card transactions taking place in the United States. In light of this revelation, Missouri AG Hawley added that it’s his duty to make sure this information is appropriately used and that Missouri consumers and businesses alike are not exploited by industry giants, especially when a company sits on a significant volume of data like Google does.
This is not the first time Google has been investigated for unfriendly business practices; the EU filed an antitrust case against Google for manipulating search engine results in 2015, and another antitrust case was started in Russia last year by Moscow-based search engine operator Yandex, on the basis that Google is forcing its services to be enabled by default on Android devices sold in the country. Google admitted fault in Europe while in Russia, the company appealed against the ruling against it with no success. More recently, Google was hit with a historic antitrust fine in the EU for supposedly monopolistic practices related to its online shopping comparison service. The Alphabet-owned company has yet to make a public comment regarding the investigative subpoena issued by AG Hawley’s Office.